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Collaboration Vs. Competition: The Untold Story of TC
We see a lot of competitive behaviour between companies versus a collaborative approach. Let's change that....
Ara Ehamparam
Co-founder & Podcast Host
Canada
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I met Shiv, my co-founder at TamilCulture.com (TC), randomly.  I find most long-lasting relationships start off this way.  We had a mutual friend, Lilian, who invited a few of us out to an Indian restaurant participating in Summerlicious in the summer of 2009.  It was during a stage where I was expanding both my social and professional circles as part of my year long commitment to saying “yes” to opportunities where I could meet new people.  

It was a really great outing filled with good conversation and good food. Towards the end, I noticed Shiv doing a really outrageous thing that I would never do- giving up her plate of dessert without finishing it.  Of course, I had to make sure that we got our money’s worth, so I finished her half eaten dessert, even though we had just met. It was delicious. That was the start of a friendship and business partnership that has now spanned almost 10 years.  

In terms of how that meeting turned into me becoming a co-founder at TC, well it wasn’t something I had planned on.  At that time, I had another tech startup with a good friend of mine. I didn’t want to take focus away from that. But during one of our conversations, Shiv shared her early concept of TC, which had been a blog and e-commerce site that Shiv had been running for about a year or so.  She originally started the site at a time when the Tamil community in Toronto was often negatively portrayed in the mainstream media, and as a group we didn’t have a dedicated space to discuss important topics critical to our growth. Out of frustration and necessity, TC was created with a vision to celebrate Tamil identity and provide a voice for Tamil perspectives.  This sounded awesome to me!

During this time, I had another buddy, Maat, who was looking to start a similar concept. Since something like what he was thinking already existed, I thought there was a real opportunity for Shiv and Maat to combine forces and work together, and both took me on my offer to meet up.  Since they didn’t know each other, I was asked by both to join that fateful coffee meeting at the Tim Horton’s at Kennedy/401 in Scarborough.

I’m not fully sure about what happened next, there are various accounts of this story from Maat and Shiv, but I’ll go with mine since I think it’s the most accurate (no bias at all). Essentially, as we were discussing the possibility of what TC could be, I got caught up in the excitement and found myself agreeing to join TC 2.0 as a founding member, even though I was pressed for time with my other business and didn’t know much about the media industry back then. I guess that’s what they call going with your gut feeling - I felt I needed to be a part of it.  

I like sharing this story with others and it’s also a good reminder for me all these years later. To me, it’s an example of how collaboration was the better choice than competition, and how something beautiful was born out of that decision.

Now jumping ahead to the present day,  a big reason why we pivoted TC from a predominantly media company to an online meeting place for the global Tamil community, was that we wanted to encourage more collaboration versus competition in the Tamil community.  We wanted to help facilitate the creation of new partnerships, providing collaborative opportunities and a place where people could connect on both a social and professional level. What we are doing is NOT new, but the audience and HOW we are doing it is unique.  

I’m super excited by the possibilities of the new TC platform because of my personal experiences.  The global Tamil community is very large, but geographically dispersed. Each region of Tamil people have their own unique stories.  Up until a year ago, I wasn’t even aware of the large Tamil population in South Africa, until we started getting the South African Tamil perspective through our amazing writer Nirvani Pillay.  A few months ago, I got to visit Singapore and became acquainted with the bustling Tamil community there, which was really cool. The internet and social media platforms are making the world a smaller, more connected place.  We can share stories from different parts of the world quite easily and create bonds across borders. Now, I’m imagining a scenario of the possibilities with the new TC features:

I would read a story about the Tamil experience in South Africa and message the author to compliment them, then a few months later, I end up going to South Africa with my wife on a vacation.  I’d message the same author for recommendations and we’d meet in person for coffee while I’m down there. Just like that - a new connection has been made!

Now, how exciting is that? There's a lot we can achieve as a community through collaboration and I'm happy to play a role in that.

Here’s a glimpse of my upcoming piece which I’ll publish on TC next week:

Here are a few things I learned about making a business partnership with a friend work:

“As exciting as things are now, this 10-year long journey was not smooth sailing.  It went from a fun project that I randomly got involved with into a “Wait, we’ve got something potentially massive here.” I learned a lot about business partnerships through TC, especially when it involves working with friends.  Good things take a LOT longer to materialize than you plan for. Timing is everything. What do you do while you wait for success? You try to have patience, but creating something from nothing is very HARD. I feel like the startup culture has been glamourized to the point where people think it’s easier and fun.  It definitely can be, but often it’s just as hard.”

-Do you have an entrepreneurial story that you'd like to share? Simply click 'CREATE+' and start telling your story and inspire others!

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Created By
Ara Ehamparam
Co-founder & Podcast Host | TamilCulture
Canada
Socialist-minded guy trying to make a difference. Co-founder of TamilCulture.com, my...
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